The original intended purpose of the Empire state building was to act as a hub for the dirigibles and zeppelins that everyone thought were going to dominate the sky. The project fell through for engineering reasons- they couldn't get the building to stay still for docking- but fallout has never paid a ton of attention to engineering concerns if it would get in the way of something sufficiently kickass.
The Prydwen logs about how the skyscrapers were tall enough to brush the airship got me thinking that it would be cool if a new York based fallout were to use the building as a docking point, either for BOS expeditionary craft or- if they wanted to get creative- an external faction who managed to coopt BOS tech, possibly by reverse engineering the BOS ships that crashed in Illinois during tactics.
If the falloutverse Empire State building pulled double duty as an airship repair depot, it could be used to justify New York being established as a top-down trade empire and act as an in-game transport hub and primary city. It could also allow the game to feature a more colonialism-heavy narrative than previous games, with the conflict between the encroaching traders and the diaspora of technologically inferior "native" wastelanders and mutants forming the crux of the plot.
Edit: Other thoughts from my brain, cause I've been thinking about this quite a while-
The game would start on Ellis Island, repurposed by the occupying powers as a processing center for immigrants to the region, just like the good old days. Character creation is registry with customs, and during character creation the player can state a reason for being in town that will trigger a unique side quest. Bonus points for background choices that allow you to heavily imply that you're the Lone Wanderer.
Jetpacks, Ziplines, and sky-bridges would connect the tops of the skyscrapers. The upper levels would have quest structures similar to the intrigue we know and love from New Vegas; the streets, which are radioactive and flooded, will be home to the rootin' tootin' shootin side of things. You'd also be able to explore the mainland and the Burroughs.
-An FEV bomb will have gone off in the heart of central park as part of the backstory, hypercharging the plantlife and causing it to basically overtake the streets; Lower New York is a swamp. While the plants are incredibly toxic to humans, they have the unique (Intentionally engineered?) effect of scrubbing nuclear toxins from the air the same way they do carbon dioxide. While the people and animals dumb enough to eat the resulting fruit suffer incredibly strong and dangerous mutations, The air and water are actually pretty safe. However, The plant life thins out towards the edge of the map, with the boundaries being areas that are incredibly radioactive and difficult to navigate without (you guessed it) an airship. Those fruit, incidentally, can be eaten/experimented with to provide mutations.
-There are Gatorclaws. There have to be.
-Many of the vaults and endgame dungeons are underwater, in subway stations, and partially flooded.
-As a spoiler faction, a ghoulified Pre-war Mafia group would be working out of Atlantic city. They've pretty much had the run of postnuclear Jersey, which took a lot of the bombs that were supposed to hit New York. They've been launching raids on people and taking advantage of the fact that nobody can come in after them to get their stuff back due to the radiation. Now they've been sending people north to observe New York, eager to partner with/exploit whoever comes out on top. My thinking is that this could be the remains of the Winters outfit, because Winters took part in a deliberate experiment to see if ghoulification was possible. Since it was, I can see the rest of his outfit trying to follow suit, particularly if he had relatives.
Supermutants aren't a faction, but a number of mutant armies have drifted south to the city over the years from Boston. The orignial gangs were small enough that they were mostly wiped out, but the few surviving super mutants, under super mutant logic, decided to join up with the raider/settler gangs that were strong enough to kill their previous groups. Most friendly settlements have some long time mutant residents, and most raider gangs have at least one mutant acting as a miniboss.
-Settlement building is contingent on being on good terms with the occupants of an area. Many settlement development quests will involve You being paid as a contractor by residents who want to renovate/relocate their settlements. Some settlements can be expanded, vault 88 style by pushing into and clearing out additional floors of buildings.
There would be a Clown Themed Gang occupying Coney's Island, With clown hammers, juryrigged flamethrower seltzers, etc.
-Last, I'd definitely like to see a bunch of would-be superheroes hanging around the city, in the vein of the Mechanist, Antagonizer, Shroud, etc. It's New York. It's ingrained there.
Also. For emphasis. There is no in game evidence that New York is a crater, and it does not matter if there is, since this is largely a thought experiment and not what they're going to do.
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